This is the rail freight potential at rebranded Port of Middlesbrough

AV Dawson has renamed its port facilities on the Tees to the port of Middlesbrough. With that they have  revived a historic name. The Port of Middlesbrough evokes memories of the recent heavy industrial past of the region. A legacy of rail freight facilities may well help revive the fortunes of the community too.

Industrial supply and logistics specialist AV Dawson has been active on Tees river for over eighty years. As a household name locally, they have been quietly consolidating their holdings to strengthen their sea, road and rail freight facilities. With the business rebranded as Port of Middlesbrough, it is the rail properties that are set to benefit most from the new profile.

Strength to the River Tees

“This is hugely positive news for Middlesbrough”, claimed Gary Dawson, managing director of the family run company. “The launch of Port of Middlesbrough adds further strength to the River Tees and its offer to importing and exporting businesses.”

Gary Dawson has confidence for the future of Middlesbrough (AV Dawson)

Destinations on the Tees are already familiar to rail freight operators. The hope for the company is that the river will become more popular in future, as Britain’s trading patterns change. Modal shift should encourage more use of rail for ship to shore transfer. DB Cargo, Freightliner and GB Railfreight are all frequent users of port facilities, and the in-house shunter loco is kept busy.

Three year development programme

The combination of bulk and intermodal capabilities reflect the legacy of steel manufacture in the area. The diverse materials requirements of heavy industry has left Middlesbrough with facilities ready to be repurposed for the future.

The rebranding takes that into account and marks the start of a three-year development programme, with rail freight playing an integral role. The promise of over a hundred new jobs has also pleased the mayor of the city, Andy Preston. “This development is a perfect fit for my wider ambitions for Middlesbrough, focusing on attracting new investment and jobs”, he said.

Plenty of potential customers

The rail freight facilities were most recently in the news when the company commissioned a rail-served automotive metals holding facility. The building provides a climate-controlled rail link directly into the distribution centre. The North East has become a hub for vehicle assembly – both road and rail – so the facility has plenty of potential customers.

Possibly the busiest shunter in the country, the hard working little locomotive that looks after operations at the Port of Middlesbrough (AV Dawson)

However, the port is most likely to be in demand when Brexit finally hits home at the end of this year. Trading patterns are expected to encourage more use of port facilities away from the South East and English Channel terminals. “We have thought long and hard about what drives the business forward”, said Dawson. “We have concluded that our location and the River Tees are key to this, given the nature of all of the multimodal assets and activities that we own and operate, we are best positioned describing ourselves as a port.”

Rail freight revitalisation

The port’s four rail terminals adjoin the local Middlesbrough goods yard exchange sidings. AV Dawson say the company has a long term lease from Network Rail to operate and maintain the goods yard. “We plan to work closely with the statutory harbour authority, PD Ports, to ensure the Tees attracts more ships, as ultimately this will help drive jobs and the local economy”, added Dawson.

For many, the demise of the local steel industry equated to the economic death of Middlesbrough. However, freight trains have continued to roll into the city, via the port properties. Rail connections have long been considered vital to the economic regeneration of this and other moribund communities. In the case of Middlesbrough and its newly rebranded port, rail connections carrying freight are well set to provide the impetus to a prosperous regeneration.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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